Saturday, November 5, 2011

Take Me Like I Am (a little line borrowed from Johnny Horton)

            I live in a small, mostly conservative town in the Ozark region, an area often stereotyped for being backward and old-fashioned.  Some of the beliefs are true although I can say with complete authority that The Beverly Hillbillies is not and never did offer a realistic portrait of the modern day Ozark Mountains.  I am a transplant to these worn, rugged hills and though I’ve come to appreciate the often spectacular scenery, I am seldom a fit among the average folks with family trees rooted back multiple generations.  I wear a faded denim jacket covered with various pins ranging from my late grandfather’s Teamsters union buttons to a Kosovo liberation one. My long hair, when I wear it down, falls down my back, auburn with a few white threads, salt and cayenne.  In short, I stand out in a crowd for many reasons.

            Now that I write romance and have eight novels out into the public eye, I can sometimes feel the stares when I roll my shopping cart down the supermarket aisle or sense the curious eyes when I sit down at my favorite local restaurant, a traditional diner style establishment where the owners have as diverse a background as I do.   Many local people know me because I write a weekly column for the local daily newspaper, a tame and safe venue in which I delve into my personal past, area history, or current events.   I have long been known as a writer for regional work and for sweet essays in places like Chicken Soup For The Soul.

            When my first novel debuted in December 2010, local people bought it, even some who lacked Kindles or other e-reading devices.  Many of them liked it and recognized the setting, the fictional Riverville as having a lot in common with Neosho, Missouri.   A few raised shocked eyebrows at the heat content, the scenes where the hero – British born Darien Wolfe, a school teacher with impeccable manners and champagne tastes – indulges his desires with fellow teacher Stella Raines.  I even warned a few people who expressed interest to expect some sexual content.

            Most of my newer releases hit a higher level of erotic content and I think most readers are finding that enjoyable.   On the local small town scene, however, I think whatever reputation I have gained is fast shifting.   Some townspeople now think I must be one red hot woman – which I won’t deny – but their opinions on that are not always positive.  

            I am also often asked if I will ever write anything but romance, the insinuation being that somehow romance is inferior or not quite on a par with serious literature.  I have no desire to write a War And Peace heavy novel but I write for entertainment.  I am an eclectic reader but one of my favorite genres has always been romance.  I like my romance spicy as well.   What I don’t like is the opinion that somehow romance is not “real writing”.

            I like to think that I am as real as it gets.  

            Funny thing is that despite the sex and even with the paranormal elements, local folk are reading and buying my novels.   They may look askance at me at times but they’re buying.   Best of all, I’m gaining a new level of respect for being a novelist instead of “just a writer”.  Because of that, I don’t care if I raise eyebrows if I have coffee in a local restaurant with a (gasp) man who isn’t my husband – something that happened to me recently.   I have many friends and many of them are men.   I like men – always have, always will.   Whether I’m enjoying an innocent cup of coffee or an illicit romp is my business too.

            I write romance.  I like writing romance and I love writing steamy scenes.   To quote the lyrics of one of my favorite Johnny Horton songs, if you want to get along with me, you’ll take me like I am.

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